Thursday, June 15, 2006

Yielding: Part II

(I am going to enter this one as an Audioblog so you can do the exercise as I talk you through it. I am also including the text so you have it if you want it for teaching.)

Last time I discussed Donna Farhi’s concept of yielding as it relates to daily living. Now let’s bring it to the mat. It is particularly useful to learn how to do it on the mat since what we do there is reflected in our daily lives. If you find your energy is either collapsed or propped in your life, practice yielding on the mat to help you bring yielding into your life.

The concept of yielding refers to being able to use gravity to ground yourself and still lengthen your physical without losing the groundedness of your energy. If you are a teacher, play with these exercises with beginners. I am amazed at how often they get this and it is rewarding for them to realize they are beginning to connect with their energy.

First let’s do it sitting. You can do this sitting on the floor or on a chair. Begin by slumping. Yes, you heard me correctly. I know it isn’t aligned, but it can dramatically connect you to your grounding ability. Go ahead and slump. Did you notice that you felt heavier as you slumped? You aren’t actually heavier, you are just grounding your energy or letting it drop. Now, the goal is to begin to align your body and lengthen without losing the weight in your sitbones.

I find I need to align from the bottom up. If I bring my attention to my upper back prematurely, I lose the connection in the grounding. First, tip your pelvis upright, then align your lower back, then open the back of your heart, feel it fan open and bring your head into alignment. Do all of this without losing the weight in your sit bones.

Now let’s do it standing in Tadasana. Be sure you take your shoes off first, grounding is much more effective without shoes. Come to standing and find your Tadasana. Balance your weight between the four corners of your feet to align yourself over your feet. The standing equivalent of the slumping to ground your energy is bending your knees. Just bend your knees and feel the weight in your feet. Now align just as we did sitting, from the bottom up. Straighten the legs, draw the tailbone toward your heals, open the back of your heart. Are you still grounded in your feet?

Now practice this concept in all the poses you do. How does it change in other seated or standing poses? What about in inversions?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Yielding: Part I

Something I have been considering lately is what it means to be fully present. In her book, Yoga Mind Body Spirit, Donna Farhi discusses the concept of "yielding". She describes it as a way of being that is perfectly balanced.
The concept is easier to understand when you consider the extremes. On one side you are collapsed, that is the student who is new and doesn't yet understand lengthening. On the other side is "propped". This propped student forces extension on him or herself, looking military in stance. Neither position feels good nor conducts energy well. The balance is yielding. Yielding is being able to feel the ground firmly and extend without losing that contact.
I see this as a fabulous metaphor for life. When we are propped, we are not engaged in life. We may be stuck in the past or just "sitting on the couch eating potato chips". When we are propped, we are forcing life, trying to make things happen that aren't ready to happen. We are pushing toward the future.
Which do you do? I find people have a tendency toward one way or the other. Where do you fall? Whatever you do in life will show up on your mat in your practice as well...Next time I will discuss how to transfer this to yoga poses.